A Muslim doctor in the US has helped raise more than $200,000 for the families of the victims of the San Bernardino mass shooting.
When Faisal Qazi first sought to help the families, the neurologist and president of the MiNDS Network only knew that the victims and their families were his neighbours, and his faith obligated him to help.
So Qazi launched the local fundraising campaign, Muslims United for San Bernardino, one day after the tragedy at the Inland Regional Center, a facility for people with developmental disabilities, and hoped to raise around US$20,000 for the families of the victims.
But Islamic scholars and leaders urged him to go further with his efforts, particularly after it was revealed that Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, and his wife and co-shooter, Tashfeen Malik, were Muslims.
Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the nonprofit CelebrateMercy, was one of the people who reached out to Qazi and suggested broadening the scope to a national level.
“We care for this country. We love this country. While no amount of money will bring back victims’ loved ones for their families, we hope this will alleviate some of the financial burden for these families,” El-Messid told Yahoo News.
Within 48 hours, the campaign on LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform focused on Muslims throughout the world, reached its initial goal of US$50,000, so the organisers raised the bar to US$140,000.
Before 8.30am (NZT) today, The Muslims United for San Bernardino campaign had raised US$135,362 (NZ$203,526) from more than 1,000 donors across the country.
It has become the most successful crowd-funding venture Muslim Americans have ever launched for the broader community, according to The LA Times.
Chris Blauvelt, who started LaunchGood, told the Times donations are coming in at a rate of $1,000 an hour – 100 times faster than LaunchGood's typical crowd-funding campaign.
Qazi says the money will be disbursed throughout San Bernardino County and the United Way to help the victims' families cover funeral expenses and other needs.
The 41-year-old told The LA Times that the American Muslim community has had intense conversations in the last decade about their role in society.
“What you’re seeing is the coming of a new generation of American Muslims being emotionally and physically invested in whatever transpires in society,” he said.
In the wake of the tragedy, El-Messidi said, many Muslims were frustrated and scared some people were lumping them together with extremists.
Perhaps the most public indication of this was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States until “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on".
The proposal has garnered both domestic and international ridicule, and several prominent scholars challenged it on constitutional grounds.
El-Messidi lamented what he considers the unfair and inaccurate representation of most Muslim-Americans as violent and treasonous in parts of the news media.
“The truth is far from that. Muslims make about 1 percent of America,” El-Messidi said.
“We are actively contributing to America and helping to build society. This campaign is one example of how American Muslims are trying to build and not destroy.”
Imam Omar Suleiman was the first major national Islamic figure to endorse the campaign. He said he wanted to bring whatever comfort and relief he could to the families.
“Obviously, losing someone is not something that could be compensated in any way. At least we could demonstrate that we were with them as fellow citizens and fellow human beings. This was a phenomenal outpouring of love,” Suleiman told Yahoo News.
“Our hearts and minds are with the families of these victims.”
Echoing El-Messidi’s sentiments, Suleiman said that these tragedies force the Muslim community in this country to grieve as Americans and worry as Muslims.
- With Yahoo News